03/24/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Pakistani activists warn of cover up in Bhatti murder inquiry

by Jibran Khan
Christian leaders denounce inadequacy of investigation into the death of Minister for Minorities. Too many false leads and a lack of political will to punish those responsible. The new president of AMPA Paul Bhatti requests a parliamentary commission of inquiry. Like Shahbaz, "I will carry on his mission until the last drop of our blood."

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - A group of Christian activists denounce inadequacies in the investigation into the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic minister for minorities assassinated on March 2 because of his battle against the blasphemy laws. Representatives of the All Pakistan Minority Alliance (APMA) report attempts to mislead the public and a total lack of real political will to catch and punish those responsible, probably linked to the country’s Islamic fundamentalist wing that holds the government in Islamabad hostage. However, Christian leaders promise to fight and ensure "we will continue the mission of Shahbaz Bhatti to the last drop of our blood."

Paul Bhatti, newly elected president of AMPA, expresses disappointment at the poor results that have so far emerged from the investigation into the death of Shahbaz Bhatti and calls for the creation of a parliamentary commission of inquiry. Only one suspect has been detained to date who according to police had a minor role, despite the Ministry of Interior proclamations. At a conference held at the Islamabad Press Club, the AMPA leader also reported attempts by the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to mislead the public- and the lack of support for the Catholic minister a "martyr" of the faith. "The Ministry of Interior - Paul Bhatti continues - today announced an imminent breakthrough [...] but they are misleading statements that claim the culprits will soon be brought to justice."

Pervaiz Rafique, a member of the provincial assembly of Punjab, promises to "continue the mission of Shahbaz Bhatti to the last drop of our blood," even if government authorities do not ensure respect for the law in the country. He recalls the death of Governor Salman Taseer, whose assassin confessed to the crime, but whom authorities never prosecuted because of pressure from the Islamic fundamentalists.

Christian leaders and human rights activists, joined in a delegation, met with the chief of police in Islamabad to ask for more information on the investigation. However they received a response that they deem "unsatisfactory." Meanwhile, in Kot Addu, Punjab, Muslim landowners - supported by local officials - continue to harass the Christian community. After the desecration of cemeteries, small local mafia leaders intend to dispossess the Christians of their lands, thanks to the influence exerted by powerful local politicians. Local officials deny incidents of violence and abuse, while Catholic groups - including the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) - have taken action to protect the rights of Christians.

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Changes to blasphemy laws and rights for minorities: the legacy of Shahbaz Bhatti
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